Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reverse Pope Worship (Or why the identity of the Pope isn't as important as you think)

I'm one of the old school traditionalist bloggers, if you can count "old school" as the early 2000's.  When I started Restore the Church, I wanted to provide a place for balanced traditionalist commentary.  I wanted to call things as they existed, yet doing so with respect for the Church and the papacy.  I also wanted to avoid what I viewed pope-worship by many "conservatives."  These individuals typically treated every utterance of the pope (or more often their flawed interpretation) as the inspired word of God, and if you didn't join them in such assesments, you were a heretic who resisted the Holy Spirit.  For them, they needed the permission of the Pope to go to the bathroom.

I think sometimes my traditionalist brethren do the reverse.  To them, the Latin Mass and the traditionalist movement is one papal utterance away from obliteration.  While technically true, would it really hurt to have a bit of faith in God?  We believe the Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.  8 years ago we lived in Indult Ghettos.  My mass was literally in the ghetto, right across the street from a strip club, on Sundays at 4pm, in the murder capital of America, so when it was dark, barely anyone came.  We also were forbidden by the Bishop from advertising its existence.  Yet we were brave (or incredibly stubborn) and went, and from time to time it even grew.

In 2013, that Latin Mass still exists.  It is joined by two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit offering the Extraordinary Form every Sunday and several times throughout the week.  They are joined by a Church a few minutes across the border in Canada, and at least 3 or 4 different churches in a 15 mile radius who offer the Latin Mass at least once a month.  When it was time to choose the priest to say our nuptial mass, I could think of ten priests in the metro detroit area alone.

Now some will state that this is not a typical experience.  To which I say you are darn right it isn't.  Detroit got where it was through some outstanding priests, and a lot of really energetic laymen who were very creative in promoting the Latin Mass.  Once the Pope allowed such instances to come into being, they ran with it.  They didn't need a papal bull laying out every detail of how to do it.  When people complained about how they wished priests and the pope were even more accomodating, they snapped "well what are you going to do about it?  Complain to the choir?"

The other big contributor to the growth of the Extraordinary Form was people finally realized not all traditionalists are like the Rorate Caeli crowd.  The church at large found out that the traditionalist movement was stacked with young guns whose mind was as sharp as their wit, and all of them had broods of children who knew the Latin Mass better at age 5 than most adults did 50 years ago.  They are even becoming less socially akward!  Better yet, they weren't a bunch of cranky boogeymen yelling at people to get off their liturgical lawn.  They were too busy living out their Catholic family life to be sucked into some echo chamber on blogs and social media.

Don't get me wrong, what Pope Benedict XVI did with the motu proprio was important.  Yet the success or failure of the traditionalist movement has always resided with the people who are traditionalists.  If we believe in the beauty of the Latin Mass, God will preserve it.  Even in the remote possiblity this pope or any pope were to ban the Latin Mass or severly restrict its usage, the enemies of tradition would just learn again what they learned last time: you can't kill this mass, and you can't snuff out tradition within the souls of the faithful.  When the Latin Mass would rise again, there will be those like me, dancing a jig on the graves of those individuals who were foolish enough to try.


  1. Dancing a jig on your enemies seems a pretty apt image for those you say you represent, as I have encountered them.

    Let me ask you something: do you think if the roles were reversed (like they were for most of Church history), and there was, say, a Pope from the FSSP, that traditionalists would have even the level of tolerance for the vernacular Mass that the post-Councillar Church before Benedict XVI showed for the Latin Mass? Or would it be utterly snuffed out? Pretty much every encounter I have ever had with traditionalists gives me the impression it would be the latter.

    From my experience, the mainstream Church, and I don't mean the ones who only attend Mass on Christmas and Easter, but faithful mainstream Catholics, have every reason to be extremely wary of those who self identify as traditionalists rather than simply as Catholics.

  2. The only problem with all of that is you can find tons of "mainstream" Catholics who hold some pretty odd views which are at variance with Catholicism all the time. I don't judge everyone who likes Theology of the Body by the standards of Greg Popcak, who calls the Big Bang "God's orgasm" which got him yanked off EWTN, but he still is a Catholic radio mainstay.

    A second problem with your animus? The Church has told you to knock it off with the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. ;)

    Do traditionalists need to be a little more understanding of those who hold pefectly acceptable Catholic positions? Of course they do. Yet as you have rather perfectly demonstrated, that goes both ways.

  3. Having "pretty odd views" may put you at odds with tradition, but not dogma. Augustine's writings on the fate of unbaptized infants are a thousand million times more disgusting to me than what you describe, but it falls within the range of what is considered acceptable dogma so I do not question his right to such an opinion.

    My animus is my own pain at having traditionalists tell me Protestants are almost certainly going to Hell, and dismissing the part of the catechism that says we may even hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants as a mere footnote, unworthy of attention, it's me walking in on a priest in the middle of a meeting nearly in tears after catching sight of a sermon by St Leonard of Port Maurice on the traditionalist section of a Catholic forum assuring me only 5 in 33000 Catholics (let alone non-Catholics!) were likely saved, and having to be consoled that this was just a personal judgment.

    I probably do need to be more understanding, but I have been greatly wounded, have strongly considered leaving the faith altogether because of the words of traditionalists. I am not trying to present a well-reasoned argument against traditionalism as a school of thought, but to tell you why I viscerally fear traditionalists.


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